Saturday, September 9, 2017


The always thought-provoking Ta-Nehisi Coates has penned a searing indictment of the Trump presidency* for The Atlantic that focuses Trump's obvious desire to base his legacy on undoing the legacy of his predecessor, towards whom he harbors an inexplicable and boundless hatred. But is it really so inexplicable? Not, according to Coates, when you understand that Donald Trump is the First "White" President. His must-read essay begins:
It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.
I'll be honest with you; this is not going to be a fun or pleasant read. And even though it's likely to leave you feeling like there's a smoking hole in your chest where you used to hide your hope... I still think it's an absolutely essential read, for a number of reasons, which should be apparent to you as you encounter them.

In the latest edition of the "Right Wing Watch" section at Raw Story, Peter Montgomery has assembled an incredibly detailed dossier on the latest manifestation of the fundamentalist Christian movement that goes by many labels, including Pentecostal, Dominionist, and Reconstructionist. His report begins:
In the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, God told Frank Amedia that with Donald Trump having been elected president, Amedia and his fellow Trump-supporting “apostles” and “prophets” had a new mission. Thus was born POTUS Shield, a network of Pentecostal leaders devoted to helping Trump bring about the reign of God in America and the world. Amedia described the divine origins of POTUS Shield during a gathering that spread over three days in March 2017 at the northeastern Ohio church he pastors. Interspersed with Pentecostal worship, liturgical dancing, speaking in tongues, shofar blowing, and Israeli flag waving, Amedia and other POTUS Shield leaders put forth their vision for a Christian America and their plans to bring it to fruition through prayer, political engagement and organizing in all 50 states. Among the many decrees made at the event was that Islam must be “completely broken down.”
As you read through this report (and I dearly hope you do), you might be tempted to write these people off as mostly harmless fools; a relatively small assemblage of pension-stealing con artists and their pathetic rube marks, trading in sub-adolescent power fantasies and feeding delusions of grandeur to whatever broken brains seem receptive to their sales pitch.

You shouldn't do that. Because these people are obsessed with achieving power (dominion) over the rest of us, and they have recently merged with the wider Christian Right, which means they're dangerous as Hell. Even more dangerous, considering Hell doesn't exist. At least, not the one they believe in. As Montgomery reports:
Both the traditional Religious Right and the apostolic Right are interested in bringing policy, politics and society in line with their “biblical worldview.” And despite what may be significant theological differences—many Religious Right activists may not see their political engagement as necessary to speed Christ’s return—they work together on political goals such as electing Donald Trump. INC leaders get their supporters fired up to see politics as spiritual warfare, and more established Religious Right groups give them a concrete way to get involved that goes beyond prayer and fasting. POTUS Shield is committed to doing all of the above. Christerson says he has seen evidence of this kind of “symbiotic” relationship: “The Religious Right gets followers, support and energy from INC, and INC gets visible examples of ‘kingdom-minded’ believers they can support and pray for in government.” He said he has seen “prophecies” that God is using Trump to transform society by appointing “kingdom-minded” people—like Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson—to top levels of government, even though they may be associated with different strains of Christianity. POTUS Shield councilmember and anti-Muslim activist Jerry Boykin is a vice president at the Family Research Council, one of the largest and most influential Religious Right political groups. At an event that FRC organized in 2009 to mobilize prayer against the passage of the Affordable Care Act, POTUS Shield Council member Lou Engle introduced then-Rep. Michele Bachmann. That same year, traditional Religious Right groups embraced Jacobs’ General International and Joyner’s Morningstar Ministries as well as the Koch brothers’ more material-minded Americans for Prosperity as part of an anti-Obama coalition called the Freedom Federation, whose declaration of principles was a social conservative wish list with an added call for an end to progressive taxation. 
In 2012, FRC worked with Cindy Jacobs and Dutch Sheets to rally conservative evangelicals in prayer against Obama’s reelection. At the partnership’s kick-off event in a Washington, D.C., church, Sheets ... said he wasn’t looking for “little sheepies” who are focused on pastoral work; he was looking to “raise up an army” of “kingdom warriors that are ready to do whatever it takes” to bring forth God’s “kingdom rule in the earth.” At the same event, FRC’s chaplain and national prayer director Pierre Bynum spoke wistfully of a time when “you couldn’t hold public office in America unless you believed in Jesus Christ.”
And now, thanks to the fact that his presidency* is mired in countless scandals, these folks have Trump's undivided attention, simply because they're willing to tell him exactly what he wants to hear; things like "America belongs to you" and "God alone put you in the White House." All of which has led us to a place where POTUS Shield founder Frank Amedia is comfortable telling the media: "I believe [Trump] receives downloads that now he’s beginning to understand come from God."

So watch what happens. Keep an eye on the US Supreme Court. Keep an eye on developments in general. Which brings us to today's final suggested reading...

...which happens to be Amy Siskind's Medium article, in which she takes the advice of experts in authoritarianism to keep a list of things subtly changing around us to heart. The results:
In the two weeks since Charlottesville, our country is consumed in flames of hate, and Trump is fanning those flames. As well, he continues his unimpeded march to authoritarian power, neutralizing the judicial branch with an unethical pardon, and attacking members of his own party in an effort to silence them. So far, the latter is largely working, and as this week comes to a close, remaining checks and balances to save our democracy are eroding, and Trump appears to feel fully in power.

  1.  Following the counter-protest march of over 40k in Boston, Trump tweeted the country needs “to heel.” Trump used the misspelled word four times in two consecutive deleted tweets, before correcting it to heal.
  2. Rev. Bernard, pastor of a megachurch in Brooklyn, became the first member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board to resign over Charlottesville.
  3. No WH officials were made available for Sunday political talk shows.
  4. On CNN Sunday, Carl Bernstein urged reporters to interview Republicans on or off the record about whether Trump is mentally fit to lead.
  5. A NBC News/Marist poll found Trump’s approval in three key battleground states has eroded: Michigan 36 approve/55 disapprove, Pennsylvania 35/54, and Wisconsin 34/56.
  6. NPR reported some Liberty University graduates are returning their diplomas to protest school President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s ongoing support of Trump, even after Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville.
  7. Former HHS secretaries from both parties urged Republicans to move quickly and stabilize Obamacare as Trump threatened to continue withholding key payments to insurers.
  8. Sunday night, when asked by reporters for his reaction to five sailors injured and 10 missing after the USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship, Trump responded, “That’s too bad.”
  9. USA Today reported Secret Service agents have already hit the federally mandated pay caps meant to last the entire year for protecting Trump. Under the Trump regime, an unprecedented 42 people have protection.
  10. Secret Service cited Trump’s frequent weekend trips to his properties, and his family’s extensive business and vacation travel. Secret Service spent $60k on golf carts, revenues which go to the Trump Organization.
  11. Trump disbanded a federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment which helped policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning.
  12. Since being established in 1990, the National Climate Assessment is supposed to release reports every four years. The next assessment would have been due in 2018.
  13. Trump’s Interior Dept ordered the National Academy of Sciences to halt its study of health risks and harm caused by mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia.

The list goes on like that... for 108 entries, each more disturbing than the last. Truly, we are living in the "Chinese curse" version of Interesting Times.

1 comment:

  1. POTUS Shield - sounds like a brand of condoms. Can we put an electronic condom on his Twitter feed? Or big pink physical (sound-proof) tickler ones on his microphones? Never too late to halt his diseased rhetoric from inseminating fertile, defenceless minds.